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Drug Use Shifting In Rogue Valley

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MEDFORD, Ore. — The Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement Team arrested a woman in Talent on Wednesday and found methamphetamine and supplies used to sell the drug.

Police say the methamphetamine was not made in the Rogue Valley and was likely imported from Mexico. Police say while use of meth has plateaued over the years, another drug, also imported from Mexico, has seen a large spike.

Medford Police say almost every type of illegal drug is imported into Southern Oregon with the exception of marijuana. Police say heroin use in particular is on the rise. Wednesday, the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement arrested Talent women Christine Lee Peterson, who now faces charges of delivery, manufacturer and possession of methamphetamine.

“When you start finding scales, packaging, drug records are really indicative of the fact that they are open for business,” said Lt. Brett Johnson, with MADGE.

Police say the meth was likely imported elsewhere, and although meth has been a problem in the past, another drug is on the rise in the Rogue Valley.

“We are seeing a huge increase over the last few years in heroin and it seems to be growing,” Lt. Brett Johnson explained.

Statistics from county health officials show just how sharp that increase has become.

“We have an unofficial tally of 7 heroin overdoes deaths in Jackson County last year,” explained Dr. James Shames. “Just to put that in comparison , if you look at 2004 to 2011, that entire 8 year period, we had a total of 14 heroin overdose deaths.”

Doctor Jim Shames says often times heroin addictions start out as addictions to prescription pain killers. It is when the addiction escalates, that heroin becomes the drug of choice.

“Once somebody becomes physically dependent on opioids and they need more and more and more of them, sometimes heroin is a relatively inexpensive alternative,” explained Dr. Shames.

Police recommend turning in unused or expired prescription medications to drop boxes throughout the Rogue Valley to help stop an addiction before it can start.